Teaching Technical Vocabulary and Key Concepts
This chapter doesn’t present a huge amount of new vocabulary, but given the challenging nature of the subject,
it would be especially important for students to have a full grasp of the appropriate technical vocabulary from the
previous chapters, particularly Chapters 3 through 6. Depending on which experimental films are screened in class,
it would be nearly impossible to discuss some of the imagery and techniques employed without being comfortable
using technical film terms. Conduct an in-class review or administer a short quiz after the screening. Ask the class to
define technical terms or to describe the film’s organizational patterns, list the narrative time and locations, and
identify its stylistic orientation, using as much technical vocabulary as possible.
TEACHING THE VIEWING CUES
1910s-1920s: European Avant-Garde Movements, p. 315
What historical precedents in the arts might have shaped the strategies used in the film you just viewed? Does
aligning the film with a historical precedent shed light on its aims? Explain.
Invite colleagues from art history, literature, history, or language departments to come speak about modernism, or
ask them to suggest works of art or readings that might be illustrative.
Formalisms: Narrative Experimentation and Abstraction, p. 324
Consider how abstraction is achieved and used in a film screened for class. How do repetition and variation
contribute to the film’s shape?
Ask students to respond to this Viewing Cue on an exam or in a journal entry or short reaction paper. In class, screen
some of the short films of pioneering video artist Lillian Schwartz, created in conjunction with computer scientists at
Bell Labs in New York City in the early 1970s. Or watch animator Jodie Mack’s Unsubscribe #1: Special Offer Inside
(2010), the first in a series of shorts that manipulates and abstracts everyday paper goods into rapidly morphing
geometric shapes. (These films can be found at lillian.com and jodiemack.com)
Experimental Organizations: Associative, Structural, and Participatory, p. 325
What is the principle of organization of the next experimental film you see in class? Identify the most representative shot
or sequence, and discuss its meaning.
This Viewing Cue is an excellent question for students to ponder in a journal entry.
Experimental Film Styles and Approaches, p. 332
Watch the clip of Gently Down the Stream (1981) online. What specific images or words solicit your attention?
What devices remind you of the elements of cinema? Are there any elements that bring to mind influences outside of
To explore the religious imagery, you can ask students to research paintings and statues of the Virgin of
Guadalupe—or the iconography around a secular figure like Jesus Malverde, the so-called patron saint of Mexican
narcotics traffickers. Or ask whether any of the students work out on rowing machines like the one pictured in the clip.
Contrast this clip with video artist Ximena Cuevas’ El Diablo en la Piel (Devil in the Flesh)— available
online—and discuss how both works rely on and subvert classical Hollywood and Catholic art conventions having to do
with female suffering and the mortifications of the flesh.
Expressive Styles and Forms, p. 336
Watch a clip from The Future (2011) online. What aspects of the clip employ a traditional narrative style? What
aspects of this narrative film bring to mind experimental film techniques?
Use this Viewing Cue as a prompt for discussion at the beginning of a class following a screening (or at the end of the
screening), or on a test to gauge students’ comprehension of the film or films screened.
TEACHING THE FORM IN ACTION
Lyrical Style in Bridges-Go-Round (1958), p. 335
The word “cinema” shares a Greek root with kinetic motion. This kinship is often most evident when bodies in
motion are filmed. Consider placing Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round (1958) in a dance with city symphony
films like Manhatta (1921) or installations like Bill Brand’s 1980 Masstransiscope, which is a mural installed in a
New York City subway station and animated by the movement of passing trains. Or partner the rhythmic editing of
the bridges with the way NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010) shoots the choreography of Jerome Robbins’s 1958 “ballet in
sneakers” in various New York City locations. Ask students to comment on each film’s use of vivid color. Or